In San Diego, the return of the sun after a week of rain feels like springtime in the mountains. Today, I felt like it was time for spring cleaning – to get out boxes for old clothes to donate, clean behind the stove and clean up the back yard (or, in our case, create a backyard worth being in). And although it’s not really spring, we can practice aparigraha, or non hoarding/non possessiveness, any time of the year.
Gates says, “We must let go of the old to make room for the new.” That’s true. Just last night, my girlfriend gave me a dress from her closet. “Awesome!” she said, “Now I can buy another dress!” Most often, we think of aparigraha as letting go of material possessions, and indeed, this is a challenge in itself. But we also need to be able to let go of old ideas and beliefs in order to make room for freedom of mind and spirit.
Most of us don’t even realize that many of the choices we make each day are guided by unconscious assumption or beliefs. Over our lifetime, and I would add over many lifetimes, we have accumulated advice from several sources about basic decisions – how to change the tire properly, how clean the house needs to be, how we treat people who are rude to us, how a fashionable outfit is put together, etc. Sometimes, the decisions we make are based on information that doesn’t speak to our highest truth. Instead of consciously making the decision for ourselves, we rely on all the information we’ve accumulated in our past. Gates says it best. “The point is, we have all been programmed, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, to an extent that most of us are only vaguely aware of.”
Programming, or the accumulation of ideas that aren’t yours, is nothing to be afraid of, but it is something to start to notice in your life. Programming occurs constantly, and it affects you when you believe that information as truth. For example, your mother reminding you time and time again that a polite woman never calls a man first. Or your brother taunting you that tough kids stand up for themselves and fight. Are those really your own beliefs and your own information?
Aparigraha asks us to let go of outdated beliefs, since they act as energy that robs us of the present moment. As Gates says, “Yesterday’s definition of a man or a woman, a race or a religion, a blessing or a curse no longer has any power over us.” Wow, can you imagine what would happen if politicians practiced aparigraha?
After yesterday’s practice inside, I decided to celebrate the sun today and practice out on my deck. With the sun on my skin, I worked to shed the cultural programming inside my head that said that only women size 2 or 4 should practice in shorts and a sports bra, since those are the only bodies worth looking at. Well, “Watch out,” I thought to the programming center in my brain, “because here comes size 8 in hot pink and turquoise.” One outdated idea let go of, many more to go.